A growing number of western companies are tapping into the seemingly insatiable desire of China’s burgeoning middle class to ape their western counterparts.

But who would have thought the Chinese would be prepared to buy western premium tea blends such as English Breakfast and Earl Grey?

Blends for Friends, a UK tea blending outfit, has pulled off the beverage industry’s equivalent of selling coals to Newcastle and is doing a brisk trade with China, according to the Daily Telegraph.

The founder, Alex Probyn, says his western blends do well with China’s middle class because of their seemingly “exotic” appeal. He says:

it’s stuff the average Chinese person on the street wouldn’t dream of drinking. But in cities they want afternoon tea with cakes and sandwiches – really, they’re buying that experience as much as the tea.”

The Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall, south-west of England, has gone a step further by exporting tea that is actually grown in the UK to China. The estate only produces around 10 tonnes of Made-in-UK tea a year, so I don’t think China’s domestic producers are too worried.

Tregothnan is owned by a descendant of 19th century British Prime Minister Charles Grey, after whom the Earl Grey was named.

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